St. Louis, Mo., May 30, 2012 — A student at the University of Missouri-Columbia thought she had found the perfect summer job — as a nanny for the 6-year-old son of a counselor for the deaf. Instead, she lost $2,000 in a con game.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning people looking for child care jobs to be extremely cautious when dealing with anyone they meet through the Internet. Scammers have been using so-called “nanny scams” for years to steal money from unsuspecting job seekers.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said the thieves are becoming increasingly sophisticated and will go to great lengths to build online relationships with their victims.
“In this case, the scammer said she hoped the student would become a part of the family and even emailed what was supposed to be a photograph of herself with the boy,” Corey said. “These people are calculating, cunning and devious, and will do whatever they need to do to steal money from innocent people.”
The Mizzou student, who is from Florissant, said she made contact with a person who identified herself as Amanda Smith through the site Care.com. Care.com is an online resource designed to connect families with potential employees offering care for children, seniors and pets. The site has posted a warning on how to avoid babysitting scams.
In an initial email, “Smith” told the student she could only correspond by email because of a hearing disability. She said she was a single mother, living with her son in Portland, Ore., but they were planning to move to the Columbia area this month. She said she needed a sitter to be with the boy five hours a day.
The scammer ultimately sent what was alleged to be a $2,775 deposit to the student’s bank account, telling the student to keep $375 as advance payment for her first week’s salary. The remaining money should be used to pay for delivery of a wheelchair for her son who had been involved in a recent accident.
Soon after, though, the mother told the student that she had made other arrangements to buy a wheelchair. The scammer told the student to take out $2,400 and send it via a MoneyGram wire transfer to a wheelchair supplier in Fort Worth, Tex.
The day after she sent the MoneyGram, the student discovered that the bank had determined that the $2,775 deposit was fake and that she now had to repay the bank the $2,400 that had been withdrawn.
“I never thought (the deposit) would be counterfeit,” the student said. “It never crossed my mind.”
The bank even froze her parents’ bank account. The parent had to borrow money to repay the money that had been removed.
The student’s father said the nanny arrangement seemed almost too perfect. “She will never make a mistake like this again,” he said of his daughter. The family contacted police, but said they were told there is little that can be done.
The BBB offers the following tips on how to identify a nanny or babysitting scam:
- Be cautious if a “parent” wants to communicate only via text messaging or emails. He or she might be trying to hide a foreign accent or withhold a phone number.
- Look out for emails or texts containing poor English or grammatical errors.
- Be wary of anyone who is hesitant to give out personal information, such as place of employment, address, names of friends or other references. He or she might be fearful of a potential employee checking out his or her background.
- Beware of “sob stories” or anything else that appears to try to get sympathy.
- If a potential employer asks you for money for any reason, it is likely a scam. Never transfer money via Western Union, MoneyGram or a Green Dot Money Card to anyone you do not know.
- If you are worried about a potential scam, contact the BBB at 314-645-3300 or go to www.bbb.org.
Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-584-6800, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743, email@example.com, or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-584-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org